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Tawau Hills 01/10/2019

 

Today was a departure day but we still had some time to enjoy the park as we waited for the boys to get down from the mountain. We expected them around mid morning.

 

48913470672_28a7f22e85_b.jpgIMG_20191001_055346 Tawau Hills park by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

We had breakfast at the staff quarters again. Whilst we ate our noodles and eggs we enjoyed the calling gibbons once again and a pair of Black Hornbills came to check out a nest hole. We were told that as black hornbills nest all year round, as soon as a suitable hole is vacated by one pair, a new pair moves in. White-breated Wood Swallows and Pacific Swallows hawked for insects, putting on an impressive acrobatic display all around us. 

 

49039116323_ed46ac7891_z.jpgPA010085 (2) Black Hornbill (Anthracoceros malayanus) (pair) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039836737_df0d185776_z.jpgPA010116 (2) Black Hornbill (Anthracoceros malayanus) (Male) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

Afterwards we took a very overgrown trail but we saw absolutely nothing of any note except for leeches! We would have seen more had we stayed put at the accommodation to be quite honest as, in addition to the ubiquitous butterflies and spiderhunters, we also had the occasional flyover of a Wreathed Hornbill

 

49039116128_a7f98d00d1_b.jpgPA010184 long-tailed macaque aka crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039115828_14845f4577_b.jpgPA010213 long-tailed macaque aka crab-eating macaque with baby (Macaca fascicularis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039620656_79132b2e61_z.jpglong-tailed macaque aka crab-eating macaque with baby (Macaca fascicularis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

48919411668_e2e7694152_z.jpgIMG_20191001_092552 roosting bat, possibly Hardwicke's woolly bat (Kerivoula hardwickii) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

We stopped at the botanical gardens where we found bats roosting in a banana leaf and a rather creepy scene of an ant that had been parasitised by a fungus.

 

48919411843_937b2da21b_z.jpgIMG_20191001_092915 Ant parasitised by fungus by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

Then the huge troop of Long-tailed Macaques decided to drop in on us, so I enjoyed watching their antics for a while until the rest of the group turned up. There were mothers with babies as well as boisterous youngsters who proved very entertaining and so it was a nice way to spend the morning. 

 

49039114413_0e6b4b8b85_b.jpgPA010279 (2)  long-tailed macaque aka crab-eating macaque with baby (Macaca fascicularis)) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039834602_bcb2922b10_b.jpgPA010300 long-tailed macaque aka crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039618951_e4b0f4c8dd_b.jpgPA010323 long-tailed macaque aka crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039618611_40336e66fc_b.jpgPA010336 long-tailed macaque aka crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039832817_c84ce6f69c_b.jpgPA010344 long-tailed macaque aka crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039617226_144403e4e0_b.jpgPA010351 long-tailed macaque aka crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039616961_65f6744554_b.jpgPA010446 long-tailed macaque aka crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039829882_589d00a644_b.jpgPA010482 long-tailed macaque aka crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039614411_02902c50ef_b.jpgPA010502 long-tailed macaque aka crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039107643_594725830c_b.jpgPA010545 long-tailed macaque aka crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039612016_97c7e7c8c2_b.jpgPA010557 long-tailed macaque aka crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

The rest of our group appeared out of the jungle at around 11am. We exchanged greetings and asked them how their days had gone.  Tomer had brought a thermal scope, which he had put to good use. More on that soon.

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kittykat23uk

But first, “how did the boys get on with their time on the mountain?”, I hear you ask, “did they see any of those rare and elusive mammals? Did Jo, Wendy and Philip make an error in not joining them?”.  Well, let’s see, this is what @Tomeslice has said about the climb (N.B. If you have already read Tomer's report on Mammalwatching.com  you can skip this bit as it's pretty much just a cut and paste from his very detailed report!): 

 

“Only after fully booking the trip with 6 people including myself, were we told that Tawau Hills was all on foot, and included a “hard climb” if we wanted to reach the top, where all the rare animals are seen. Prior to that, I had imagined it being a little more like Mt. Kinabalu. 

 

Well - How hard can it be to climb Tawau? It’s not Mt. Everest, is it? 

 

We’ve pondered that question a while, because we received several warnings about having to be in shape, and about how tough it is. So the answer is: It’s pretty tough! You start the first 2K in the lowlands, completely flat, on a nicely marked trail. Well, actually everything is nicely marked, but the trail in the lowlands is very comfortable – almost wheel-chair accessible (almost – not quite!). Then you have 2K of very steep up-hill. From there on, it’s all ups and downs – sometimes long, steep sections, sometimes gentle, but rarely flat. And all this – in the increasingly hot, very humid rainforest. You start when it’s still cool out – like 7-7:30ish. But by the time it gets 10:30-11:00 and you’re still climbing, without many animals crossing your path, it just becomes a long, sweaty hike. So take that into account. 

 

The night before the official start of the tour, Jens, Jason and myself met up at Tawau and were taken to a 4-hour spotlighting session of the lowlands. Before even leaving our hostel 15-min outside the park, I thermal scoped a large-ish flying squirrel, but we never got a good look at it to be able to ID it. As soon as we reached Tawau headquarters, I thermal scoped sleeping Long-tailed macaques, which were the first “official” (mammal) species of the trip. Throughout the spotlighting session, we saw Dark-tailed tree rat (Juvenile and later an adult), an Oriental dwarf kingfisher, an undescribed species of Tarantula, some stick insects, and a couple of cool frogs. 

 

I also thermal-scoped a small treeshrew-like mammal that was darting in-and-out of some tangled vines, but we never got a chance to ID it. My hunch was a pen-tailed treeshrew because of the behavior and habitat, and Shavez said it could have been, but of course we will never know for sure. I also thermal scoped a sleeping Maroon langur, which was actually a lifer for me, and a mammal I wanted to see. We would see tons throughout the trip – but the first one is always exciting. 

 

The next morning we had an early breakfast around 7, and wanted to start the climb by 7:30ish. The park usually doesn’t open until 8, but this was arranged for us, with only a 10-minute delay or so. Right away, there were treeshrews and squirrels near the small stream, but we only positively identified a Prevost’s squirrel. Had we had more time, and not a 10K walk ahead of us with only 2 nights at the top, we would have probably identified more species. On the way up we saw Maroon langurs again, and Jens and Jason flushed out a single or a couple large animals which we were pretty sure are Bearded pigs, but we didn’t see them well enough to “count” them. There were many trail cameras along the way, as well as a couple of Clouded leopard traps for research and collaring purposes. On the last 2km of the hike we saw our first North Borneo Gibbons, whose sound was omnipresent in the park. 

 

We reached the very beautifully-situated St. Lucia hostel, where we relaxed before embarking on the afternoon hike. The hikes at Tawau are again mostly up-and-down slopes, and along ridges. The forest isn’t super thick, so you can see relatively far into it, especially when you compare it to Neotropical jungles, or even to Deramakot, really. Shavez obviously knows the area very well and has taken us to specific places where different species have been photographed, including Bay Cat, Kayan Slow Loris, Collared mongoose, Hose’s civet, and just the “regular” Marbled cat, banded linsang and Clouded leopard. 

 

He showed us some areas in the afternoon so that we could revisit them at night with or without him. But he was cool and enthusiastic enough to join us as much as we liked. Shavez is also a funny character, and he knows most animals pretty well. On our afternoon hike we didn’t see much, but at night I thermal-scoped a Colugo, a Red Muntjac down-slope from the ridge, and some sleeping birds including a black-naped monarch. Shavez took us to a ridge on the main trail from Mt. Lucia to Mt. Magdalene, where there is a section of the trail where almost all the “cool” animals have been seen – from bay cat, through all the other cats, and hose’s civet, among others. He called it the “biodiversity hotspot”. So we just sat down a little off-the-trail in the bushes, turned off our lights, and I thermal scoped to see if anything would come up. 

 

After about 20 minutes or so, Jason heard an animal very close to him, but it was an angle I couldn’t get from where I was sitting – so he shined the light and saw a Banded palm civet within a couple meters of himself. We followed it for a minute or so, trying to get in position for a picture as it was walking away, but we never managed to get any decent shots despite keeping pretty close to it for a little while. We went back and to the trail and sat beside it, but after a while longer it was almost midnight and we started heading back down the trail, with a few stops in hopes we would see more cool stuff. But we didn’t see anything of note. 

 

The following morning around 6:00ish, while brushing my teeth, I walked onto the balcony and saw a Malay Civet which apparently lives underneath the lodge. I tried to call Jens and Jason to see it, but as neither of them was around and I didn’t have my camera, it just went back into the bushes. We walked back up to Biodiversity hotspot and waited for a while, but didn’t see much except gibbons and Bushy-crested hornbills. 

 

Then we checked out another ridge that I liked because it had good lookouts over the valleys on either side of it. We didn’t sit around for too long, but Jason and I did get our only confirmed sighting of a Horse-tailed squirrel for the trip. After breakfast we explored the trail just ‘below’ the lodge, before the steep drop. I saw a mammal in the trees, which I first thought was a giant squirrel, but then I thought it was a yellow-throated marten. I walked over to get Jason and Jens who were sitting just further down the trail, but in doing so I lost the animal as it moved through the canopy. Either way, we will have seen both of those species later in the trip. 

 

Throughout the morning, we heard a bunch of, and got a few short glimpses of helmeted hornbills, which were rather common in this area – probably more so than any other place on Borneo. In the afternoon we slept during the short storm, and then explored the same trail section, only to find a scarlet-rumped trogon. Tonight after dinner, Shaves told us there is a pair of Red giant squirrels often glide in the trees right in front of the restaurant. We didn’t see them before dinner, but incidentally, Shavez asked to check out my thermal scope after dinner before we went on our night walk, and immediately he spotted a pair of them on the trees in front of the restaurant, right around eye level. Side note: I really enjoyed the food here, even compared to other destinations throughout the trip. 

 

Tonight we were going down to the stream where Shavez has seen Hose’s civet before. To get there, the hike is about 1.3-1.5km, some of which is pretty flat, but then descending down the last 300-400m through steep and slippery terrain toward the stream. On the way there we first stopped at the helicopter landing clearance, where I thermal scoped a mammal that was rather slow-moving (like a loris) but couldn’t find it with the torch high up some tree that we couldn’t get a good angle on. 

 

Later on the hike, during the flat part, I thermal-scoped a small-ish squirrel-sized mammal poking half-way out of its nest. We shone on it, and it was indeed a medium-sized flying squirrel. Jason thinks he saw most, if not all of it outside the nest, but I only got it poking its head out from the nest. Through waiting quietly for it to poke out and then changing its angle, we were able to obtain some photos which helped us confirm it as a Temminck’s flying squirrel. I just want to point out that in the field guide to the mammals of Borneo, it says about this squirrel that there is only 1 record of a nest, about 0.5m above the ground, on the Malay Peninsula. This nest hole was about 3-4m above ground. Just an observation. 

 

Down by the river, we actually had a very interesting time, but unfortunately we didn’t get photos of everything that came by, in order to ID the animals. First we sat at the exact spot from where Shavez and his assistant Chun saw the Hose’s civet. We turned off all the lights and I only used my thermal scope. Within minutes, we saw our first mammal. Even though we couldn’t ID it – it was very interesting for me, so I want to describe the experience: first I saw a shrew-sized mammal swim into view of the thermal scope. It swam so efficiently, like a tiny otter. Then it hopped onto the rocks right in front of us, on the opposite side of the small stream (3-4 m from where we were sitting). Then it continued to switch between traveling in-and-out of the water, as if it was equally comfortable traveling using both methods. 

 

I immediately whispered “aquatic shrew!” Everyone turned on their lights, and for several seconds, we saw a small, gray-ish (?) animal exhibiting this behavior – going back and forth between swimming and running on the rocks. I know that according to the mammal book, Borneo Water shrew doesn’t occur in Tawau, and frankly it looked a little too gray to be a Borneo water shrew, but unlike the rest of the rodents we saw this evening, all of which stayed out of the water, this one chose the water as means of locomotion… We will never know what it was, until someone else goes there and sees the same animal exhibiting the same behavior and recording it. 

 

Next, we took off our shoes (well I took mine off) and walked up the river to another spot. We sat at another location, and almost immediately after situating ourselves in viewing positions, me with the scope scanning back and forth, up and down, I saw another rodent come into view. I waited until it was “close enough” (considering there’s not really a good sense of depth with the scope) and alerted everyone where it was, using a “clock” system (where 12 o’clock was right in front of where I was facing, and everything else was derived from that). Everyone got a decent look at a pair, if I remember correctly, of large-ish rodents coming toward the river but as soon as all the lights were on them they turned back and ran into the forest. 

 

Then, a similar thing happened with another rodent, a few minutes later, which came from another direction. The third encounter, only a few minutes later, again, was with a larger rodent. I saw it in the scope, running along the riverside rocks. I had everyone turn on their lights and we got a pretty decent view of a Longtailed porcupine, which continued to run upstream along the rocks to the side of the river. It was, again, apparent that it chose to run outside the stream, even when it rock-hopped across it, which made me wonder again about the first animal we saw, which chose to swim rather than run on the rocks. I really do think it was a water shrew, but again, we’ll never know. 

 

After that we walked to a third area down the stream, which was less successful. I slipped and knocked my camera on a rock, cracking the lens in 2 places. Miraculously, this didn’t greatly affect my pictures for the rest of the trip. But regardless, that 3rd place wasn’t very effective. I think we did see one more rodent that scattered before we got a chance to take a picture of it. We walked back to the first spot and waited for almost half an hour with nothing happening. 

 

Then we decided to hike back to the lodge, as it was already midnight and the hike would take at least another hour or so, if we see nothing along the way. The only thing we spotted was another sleeping bird with the scope (a beautiful Jambu fruit dove) and the nest of the Temminck’s squirrel, which was still warm. The final animal we identified, and one of the only ones at Tawau that was spot-lit for eye-shine as opposed to thermal-scoped, was a Thomas’s Flying Squirrel that Jason found in the helicopter clearing before we got back to the lodge. 

 

After we got back to the lodge, around 1:00ish, I continued just past the lodge to see if we can see something on the 300m ridge walk before the “big drop” (200m steep descend from the lodge). During the very short walk, I scoped a Brown Wood Owl, which we would see several more times including the following evening at the next lodge. Back at the hostel, we did see the Malay civet again, which Jason tried to photograph before going to sleep. 

 

The next morning we got up around 5:30, had a quick breakfast, and then started the hike down toward the HQ, which took us until about 11:15 – 11:30, but that’s because after the first hour and a half or so we really picked up the pace. During the first hour we saw our trip’s first Sambar deer, a Treeshrew, which we didn’t get a picture of, but Shavez was pretty sure was a Large Treeshrew, some slender crows, and down at the end of the trail, right next to the HQ were rather habituated Long-tailed Macaques and North Bornean Gibbons. 

 

We were also told that there were two sightings of Tufted Ground squirrels during the time we were up the mountain, between Km 3-4 along the main trail, including this morning. I guess that seemed like a good place to see them, but I just don’t see when someone would be in that area during the prime time of the morning, unless they pretty much ran up the first few km, as the porters do when carrying up the bags and supplies. In fact, it was the porters who saw the tufted squirrel. We then met up with the rest of the group, had a refreshing cold shower and started our long drive toward Danum Valley. 

 

In conclusion, I’d say Tawau is a great place with lots of potential. It’s not Deramkaot in the sense that you’re not covering as much ground, and it’s certainly not the best place to see a clouded leopard, but it’s a different habitat, and Shavez, who is both knowledgeable and enthusiastic, can at least point you to places where cool things could be seen. If I had any more nights, I’d spend them along the stream, just waiting at 1 point starting earlier on in the evening, where Shavez saw the Hose’s civet. But also “Biodiversity Hotspot” would be a good place to sit off the trail and see if something cool comes along. Thanks again to Shavez and the cook for a lovely time up the hills!”

Edited by kittykat23uk
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kittykat23uk

So I think the three of us breathed a collective sigh of relief that the boys hadn't seen a clouded leopard up the mountain, and I'd imagine that they did likewise on learning that we hadn't seen anything they hadn't already seen up the mountain. I was happy enough to give them a few rodents and squirrels on us at this stage of the trip in trade for avoiding that arduous hike! 

 

THERMAL SCOPE

 

Tomer brought along a new toy in the shape of a thermal scope. Here are some of his thoughts on it’s use:

 

“It has become a thing.. not only do we need to carry a pair of binoculars around our neck, a camera, which, for many mammal watchers is very heavy, and a torch for all the dark-hours activities. Now we also have to have a 4th hand/shoulder/neck/large pocket for a thermal scope. But let me assure you – it’s worth it! 

 

I procrastinated buying one, by about a year. When I finally narrowed down which model I wanted to purchase, lead times became a little tight with international shipping, customs, etc. Long-story short – I “resorted” to buying the Pulsar Quantum HD38S, off the display shelf at the local hunting store. It was literally the only thermal scope they had in stock, that I could buy immediately. Of course it came with an “opened box” discount, and it’s already much cheaper than the current versions out there. This model is also obsolete. But it was really sufficient! I tell you – after a few hours (well, after MANY HOURS) of practicing in both in Singapore before our trip to Borneo, and after holding the damn thing to my eye for 7-9 hours a night for several nights, this scope became so efficient, almost nothing escaped me. You just have to put your time in, and you’ll be able to tell mammals from birds. This is why I can safely recommend this rather inexpensive, old model. Anything above it is just a bonus. Of course I haven’t yet used it in open terrain, where conditions may be different, and I’ll have to re-learn how to tell things apart from each other. But the bottom line is, if you ask me, get one! And you really don’t have to go for the expensive ones… buy used ones off EBay. 

 

And take the time to practice looking through it! A few more notes on the use of the scope – Every time I turned the scope on, I turned the brightness down to 0 (out of 20 – default is 5), and I turned up the contrast to 7 (from a default of 6). This was very sufficient, because plants didn’t shine almost at all, while mammals were clearly white. The lower brightness also doesn’t blind me when I look up from the scope at an actual animal in the spotlight. After many hours of use – it became very clear to me that sleeping birds generally look like white-ish circles (except hornbills, owls and very large birds, which you can make out their shape). Mammals – big or small, glow bright – lighter than birds. Mammals are also almost always moving to some extent (even if they’re eating or resting. Unless they’re sleeping), and their movement looks different from birds’ movement. It became easier to distinguish between them after a while. Reptiles give little-to-no heat. Some insect, strangely, were glowing tiny but bright white. Most other insects didn’t glow at all. I think that the use of the lowest brightness setting enabled battery power to last long enough – about 10 hours of operation time before they would go out. So I only had 2 sets of rechargeable batteries: 1 set in the scope, and the other set always on me, ready to replace them. 

 

One last note about traveling with a scope – I travelled from Tel Aviv through Munich to Singapore with the scope in my backpack. I had no problems with it what-so-ever. In Munich, I was questioned during the connection about my huge Led Lenser light. But nothing was said about my thermal scope. In Singapore, I just walked in and nothing happened. When I left Singapore the first time (to Tawau), they put my backpack through “further inspection” only because I apparently had a “big book” (Borneo mammal field guide). They opened it, and again, said nothing about the scope. I flew to Singapore once more with my scope on the way back from KK. I used my thermal scope twice in Singapore. One last note – I met Stuart Chapman coincidentally at Deramakot, and he mentioned that even though he did in fact get pulled into customs on his way into Singapore, and even though he had his thermal scope, they didn’t do anything nor confiscated it. Stuart – please correct me if I’m wrong, as I don’t want to mis-lead anybody. But I’m still not clear about the official legality of the use of them in Singapore.”

 

Note, that we have since heard from other people who have travelled via Singapore and had thermal scopes confiscated, as can be seen in the comments on Mammalwatching.com 

 

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@kittykat23uk Amazing critters and I love the shot of the mantis head and 'hands' - it looks like a weird sculpture.  I thought you were joking about the strange spider being named after David Bowie and, like others, I just thought it was because it looked like a spider from Mars. But then I realized it really exists! And then, of course, all the Bowie comments! And you did have Major Tom(er) in your group :rolleyes:

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37 minutes ago, Galago said:

@kittykat23uk Amazing critters and I love the shot of the mantis head and 'hands' - it looks like a weird sculpture.  I thought you were joking about the strange spider being named after David Bowie and, like others, I just thought it was because it looked like a spider from Mars. But then I realized it really exists! And then, of course, all the Bowie comments! And you did have Major Tom(er) in your group :rolleyes:

 

Thank you @Galago it seems to be a bit of a "thing" these days that newly discovered species are named after celebrities and spiders seem to be a particularly rich source of new species, here is an article that has a few more famous people's spiders, including the David Bowie spider. https://www.sbs.com.au/topics/science/nature/article/2016/03/09/12-celebs-you-probably-didnt-know-have-spiders-named-after-them  

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Nice!

 

I will be going back to Borneo for my third time this summer.

The plan is:

5 nights Deramakot

5 nights Danum valley

 

Danum have had a fair amount of Clouded leopard sightings the last year and should be a great combo with Deramakot. 

Edited by Antee
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@kittykat23uk Who knew?! And how bizarre. I'm not sure I'd want a venomous spider named after me - but then I'm not entirely relaxed around spiders! Thanks for the link, interesting reading.

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Danum Valley  01/10/2019

 

Around midday we started our journey to Lahad Datu, it was a depressing drive through miles and miles of palm oil plantation, occasionally we drove through storms which made for some interesting driving conditions. I was also not enamoured to be stuck behind a truck carrying a rather explosive cargo for a good portion of the drive: 

 

48920149942_5effa3eb43_c.jpgIMG_20191001_143743 Dangerous cargo by Jo Dale, on Flickr 

 

It was scorching hot in Lahad Datu where we had a very late lunch at around 3 PM at the same restaurant as we’d stopped on my last trip. Here we met up with Mike, who was my guide from our 2017 trip and Tomer’s guide from his brief 2015 visit and he would be our guide for the next 13 days. 

 

Tomer wrote the following in his trip report about his impressions of Mike:

 

“Mike already has a name for himself, and I know he doesn’t want the extra attention (sorry Mike, I’ll keep it short!) but it’s noteworthy that Mike of 2019 compared to the Mike we met in 2015, is definitely Mike 2.0: from the enthusiastic, young dude who would stop for and try to identify every eyeshine, and even spotlight in the rain – to an experienced guide who can spot and identify everything around (mostly mammals, reptiles, birds and even amphibians) well before the clients, who will quickly identify and skip flying squirrels and striped civets after you’ve had enough of them, who knows the common and Latin names of almost all the species around, and is almost always right upon inspection of the photos later! 

 

I was especially impressed with the snake identification. Mike of 2019 gets way more excited about a rare rat than about “another” marbled cat, and can tell you on a given night if it’s more of a Skunk, otter civet and moonrat night, or a clouded leopard night. He may also be one of the few people I met who has as dark sense of humor as I do”.

 

I can’t really argue with that assessment, I also noticed some differences in the way Mike operated this time around, mostly in Deramakot, which we will come onto later.  

 

It was another 2.5-ish hour drive until we got to Infapro lodge in the Danum Valley conservation area. In planning this trip I got really fixated on where we were going to be staying in Danum Valley because I just couldn’t find anything out about this lodge that Tom planned to put us up in. Infapro is a forestry lodge close to the Danum Valley Field Centre. The reason AAB prefer to now place mammalwatchers here rather than at the field centre is the flexibility to do night drives. 

 

48919945971_3bf4827735_b.jpgIMG_20191003_063929 Danum Infrapro by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

48919413688_9bb6c617b6_b.jpgIMG_20191003_064332 Our chalet at Danum Infrapro by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

You may have read my previous trip report where we stayed at the field centre but were limited on the night drives as they close the gates to the lodge at 9pm. There were times where we had to cut short sightings in order to rush back to the gates. By staying at Infapro we can drive the entrance roads and the roads down towards the field centre and Borneo Rainforest Lodge, so cover more ground and, the theory goes, have a greater chance of seeing something good, like a clouded leopard. 

 

The downside is that the actual grounds of infapro seem rather lack-lustre and uninspiring and, despite being fairly close to DVFC, we took a slow drive in for mammals and so ended up having little time to cover the trails within the grounds of that lodge. As such, the opportunities for good birding was significantly reduced.      

 

We had two vehicles for the transfers. Jens, Tomer and Jason in one, Wendy Phil and I in the other. On the way in, the other vehicle saw Pig-tailed macaques and we saw the first sounder of  Bearded Pigs of the trip, mostly these seemed to be sows with piglets. There was a bit of toing and froing trying to sort out rooms, but eventually we got settled in.  

 

Tomer found a Bornean Wood Owl next to our cabins on the way to dinner. Then after dinner we had our first night drive. 

 

49039896067_1c30808a91_b.jpgPA010574 (2) Brown Wood Owl  (Strix leptogrammica) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

We had one of the best leopard cat sightings of the trip, who was stuck up a tree having been  scared off by another individual on the ground, It was being bothered by some large wasps and after trying to tough it out had clearly had enough and quickly dropped down to the ground and scurried away.

 

49039681001_b907b21970_b.jpgPA010577 Sunda leopard cat (Prionailurus javanensis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039175848_062ff9c6e1_b.jpgPA010612 Sunda leopard cat (Prionailurus javanensis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039175508_4f1ddc4e50_b.jpgPA010619 Sunda leopard cat (Prionailurus javanensis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

We also saw Greater Mouse Deer, Thomas’s and Black Giant Flying Squirrels, a water monitor lizard together with a Blue-eared Kingfisher over a little stream, our first of many sleeping Crested Serpent Eagles, a few Malay civets and our trip’s first Bornean Striped (formerly small-toothed) Palm Civet, a dark-headed cat snake, our first of many Buffy Fish Owls, and a Long-tailed Porcupine, only the second one I have ever seen. It was nice that the whole group had now seen this species, since the boys had got their first one up the mountain.

 

49039174523_e598d122a1_b.jpgPA010657  long-tailed porcupine (Trichys fasciculata) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039894147_d9ca74906c_b.jpgPA010662 (2) buffy fish owl (Ketupa ketupu) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039893942_90767200e8_b.jpgPA010676 Water monitor & Blue-eared kingfisher by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039893692_d60b1a5caf_b.jpgPA010685 Water monitor by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

Tomer also thermalscoped a rat on a tree to the side of the road: 

 

“Mike was really curious about the rat we saw, saying it had a weird looking face, and that it’s very close to where history’s only Emmon’s tree rat has been captured. Of course we aren’t suggesting we saw the world’s rarest rat.... but it’s a nice, curious thought 😊 After the organized night drive, Jason and I took a walk down the main road, and saw another greater mouse deer, and some rats, which we never identified”. 

 

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Wow, that's a pretty good first night drive.  I can't say I had ever heard of Infapro and had to look it up when I first read Tomer's report.  The ability to do night drives does seem like a big plus.  Even Borneo Rainforest Lodge (where we stayed twice before in Danum) has no adequate night drive options.  So, I am looking forward to reading your next installments.

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kittykat23uk

@Atdahl Certainly, if you want to prioritise night drives then this place is probably your best bet. Of course, what you see is all down to luck. 

 

On my first trip to Danum, staying at DVFC and BRL for several nights I did not see a single leopard cat but I did get banded linsang on one night at DVFC. 

 

 

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kittykat23uk

Here's a video of the poor leopard cat. If you read my last Borneo report you may recall that I was stung in the face by a wasp. It was like being punched! I felt very sorry for the poor little kitty.. As they used to say "time for a sharp exit!"

 

 

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poor kitty! But at least it got him to turn around and give you a good showing!

 

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kittykat23uk

Danum Valley 02/10/2019

 

We took a slow drive to the Danum Valley Field Centre early in the morning. Although we were looking for mammals, we saw mostly birds, including  a Changeable Hawk Eagle, a pair of Rhinoceros Hornbills, a very confiding Large Frogmouth, and not so confiding Red-throated Barbet, and Thick-billed Green Pigeon and a few raptors. There was quite a debate over whether we would all go together or do our own thing with the limited amount of time we had there. For a start we walked over Segama suspension bridge from where Jason had reportedly seen otters on previous trips (although I never saw any in Danum myself). 

 

49039259353_e9db54bbf2_b.jpgPA020013  Changeable Hawk-eagle   (Nisaetus cirrhatus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039258828_f4518ed29c_b.jpgPA020034 Large frogmouth (Batrachostomus auritus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039978877_d5f9e3175a_b.jpgPA020047 Large frogmouth (Batrachostomus auritus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

48920150432_b411975a19_b.jpgIMG_20191002_074359 Danum Valley by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

I was hoping to try some of the crisscrossing trails on the other side of the bridge for pittas and other birds, but no sooner had we started to cross were we called back by our driver as a large troop of Maroon langurs were foraging right next to the road. Soon after,  as we were still trying to decide what to do, a Plain Pygmy Squirrel was doing it’s best impression of Speedy Gonzales in the trees next to the hanging bridge. He was quite a challenge to photograph!


49039761516_02956260f2_z.jpgPA020347 (2) maroon langur AKA  red leaf monkey (Presbytis rubicunda) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039975872_e8383c1b7f_z.jpgPA020393 (2) maroon langur AKA  red leaf monkey (Presbytis rubicunda) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039975277_b088c4beef_b.jpgPA020418 (2) maroon langur AKA  red leaf monkey (Presbytis rubicunda) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039253468_7f7787314b_b.jpgPA020540 maroon langur AKA  red leaf monkey (Presbytis rubicunda) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039758661_fe412839c7_b.jpgPA020595 least pygmy squirrel (Exilisciurus exilis), AKA plain pygmy squirrel by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039757731_9fe28e3df4_b.jpgPA020642 Spiny spider sp by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

In the end most of us decided to go with Mike on one of the shorter trails- I think it was the self-guided nature trail. We saw both Scarlet-rumped and Diard’s trogons, and heard Blue-headed Pitta calling near the trail, but, despite trying it was too far to get onto.

 

49039251273_aae0b458d9_z.jpgPA020671 (3) Diard's Trogon (Harpactes diardii) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039970387_58984a939b_z.jpgPA020692 (2) Scarlet-rumped Trogon (Harpactes duvaucelii) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

Tomer then decided to stake out the otters but didn’t get lucky. Before heading back, Mike also spotted a snake crawling right near the trail, but all we got of it was a glimpse and we never were able to ID it. 

 

I met up with another birder and quizzed him on sightings. They had been pretty poor of late, I think he said one of the pittas I was after (blue-banded) was present but a long hike up the waterfall trail, so that was out. Black-crownded were supposed to be around. Having had good luck on my first visit with Orangutan in Danum, I was hopeful of seeing one today, but according to this guy, none had been seen in the vicinity of the field centre for quite some time. This was obviously rather disappointing news, but I was certain we would have a good chance of seeing them at Deramakot anyway. 

 

I was torn between skipping breakfast and lunch and staying around the field centre or heading back to Infapro. Jason decided to stay, but in the end, based on the information from this guy I met, as well as the gathering rain-clouds I decided to head back with the others instead. I think Mike was a bit concerned about leaving Jason on his own, but decided that he was a big enough lad to look after himself and hopefully we would reconnect with him when we returned in the afternoon. 

 

As it happened, heading back proved to be a good decision because boy, did it rain after we arrived back! And it didn’t really stop until the early afternoon. One good thing about Infapro, is that the food is much better than the cold chicken nuggets and chips that you get for breakfast down at the field centre. 

 

49039755356_b0377b59ae_b.jpgPA020703  Malaysian pied fantail (Rhipidura javanica) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

48919412498_5ac8c2e5af_b.jpgIMG_20191002_135433 Danum Infrapro by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

After lunch we drove back down to the valley and met up with Jason, he had seen more langurs, some squirrels and long-tailed macaques- nothing that the rest of us hadn’t seen really. 

 

In the afternoon we split up and did our own thing. I wanted to try my luck with the pittas, and headed for the orchid trail where I have had good luck in the past with both black-crowned and blue-headed, as well as the sought-after Bornean Bristleheads, but this time I completely struck out. I did find a nice Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker but not many other birds at all really other than Greater and Lesser Green Leafbirds, a Bornean Black Magpie, White-crowned Shama, Eastern Crimson Sunbird and those drab bulbuls and babblers that are a nightmare to identify. 

 

49040001772_3b02167e16_b.jpgPA020024  yellow-rumped flowerpecker (Prionochilus xanthopygius) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039278708_8b2fdeffde_b.jpgPA020077  yellow-rumped flowerpecker (Prionochilus xanthopygius) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039999207_5be3e7bd2b_z.jpgPA020115 A flower by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039276733_d0a6d3ce37_b.jpgPA020131  Tractor millipede (Barydesmus sp.) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039782596_307af8e9cc_z.jpgPA020164 (2) (2)  Bornean black magpie (Platysmurus leucopterus aterrimus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039276198_0c4a2503a2_b.jpgPA020167 (2) adj  Greater green leafbird (Chloropsis sonnerati) (Male) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039996847_392461b565_b.jpgPA020188 adj greater green leafbird (Chloropsis sonnerati) (Female) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

I did, however, catch up with the Maroon Langurs again. They at least put on a nice show. Although I have now got quite the collection of photos of this particular species.  

 

49039782106_987cdf6cbe_z.jpgPA020221 maroon langur AKA  red leaf monkey (Presbytis rubicunda) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039275438_f44167f8db_b.jpgPA020227 maroon langur AKA  red leaf monkey (Presbytis rubicunda) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039778831_16a5fcab46_b.jpgPA020283  white-crowned shama (Copsychus stricklandii) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

Some of the rest of the group hiked the same trails as the group did in the morning, along which there is a 3- story tower, from where Tomer saw some squirrels, including the first Cream-colored Giant Squirrel and a Prevost’s Squirrel of the trip. He also got an eye-level sighting of a Black and Yellow Broadbill. I believe Tomer almost came a cropper when the rest of the group moved on. When I met up with them Tomer was absent, everyone thought he had fallen asleep at the tower, He assured us he hadn't so maybe he was just very, very still? Thankfully it wasn’t long before we  reconnected. 

 

On the way back to the lodge, right around when it got dark, we had a brief view of another Bearded Pig, and another Leopard Cat. After dinner we had another night drive where we saw our first Philippine Slow Loris, and most of the “regular” things, including Buffy Fish Owls, Bornean Striped Palm Civet, another Leopard Cat, Thomas’s and Red Giant Flying Squirrels, our first of many Large Flying Foxes a sleeping Crested Serpent Eagle and a pair of sleeping Crested Firebacks.

 

49039992802_9a586f5b7e_b.jpgPA020335 buffy fish owl (Ketupa ketupu) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039992452_39f4ba23a5_b.jpgPA020366 Philippine slow loris (Nycticebus menagensis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039776751_a241a02bba_b.jpgPA020382 Philippine slow loris (Nycticebus menagensis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039269863_c2ec16d5ef_b.jpgPA020419 crested fireback (Lophura ignita) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039269598_7bc3a61cf6_b.jpgPA020421 crested fireback (Lophura ignita) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039774881_55497ff6cf_b.jpgPA020468 (2) Bornean Small-toothed palm civet (Arctogalidia trivirgata), AKA three-striped palm civet by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49039774196_10f2c46dd4_b.jpgPA020498 (2) Sunda leopard cat (Prionailurus javanensis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

At one point, I think it was this evening, we got out of the vehicle near a wooden bridge for coffee and cake- Caffeine and Sugar was a regular and very necessary feature of the night drives. Tomer, Jason, Jens and I went to take a look. It was pretty sketchy as the bridge had widely spaced planks and it was a 30m drop down to the river below. The middle of the bridge was safer than the bits to either side if I recall correctly. 

 

So there we were checking out this bridge in the middle of the night and all of a sudden, I heard a “thunk!” to my right of something hitting the deck combined with a startled, “erk!” and what do you know but Tomer’s put a leg down one of the gaps and thankfully had managed to catch himself on the edge of the slats rather than plummeting straight through! 

 

I heard Jens quip,  “has he done it AGAIN?!” as I quickly went to Tomer's aid. As he was now pulling himself to standing Tomer asked me to hold his equipment, (scope or camera I think it was), then he said he needed to sit down, so I helped him down to a more secure part of the bridge. The next thing I knew, he was out cold! I was trying to wake him, “Tomer, Tomer are you okay?!” but no response! 

 

Mike was unaware of all this as he and the driver were still back at the car. Thankfully, although it seemed longer,  it was probably only a few seconds before Tomer came to, somewhat confused about what had happened. In Tomer’s words, 

 

“I fell so that the corner of the next plank hit me so hard in the knee that I actually felt dizzy and then proceeded to pass out for several seconds. This was a scary moment for the rest of the group… and for me as well. But luckily it ended this way, and all I had was an ugly bruise – but felt fine the next morning. Phew! ”

 

Well I’m not one to judge, as I managed to put my foot down a hole in a harbour wall in Japan, smashing up my camera lens, but thankfully getting away with only a bruise as well! Despite all this excitement, Tomer was back on the thermal scope pretty much straight afterwards- That’s dedication for you! Go Tomer!   

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kittykat23uk

Kinabatang River 03/10/2019

 

We only had one night on the Kinabatangan this trip and I was somewhat dubious on the value of including it. I’m generally not a fan of only having a short stop, but clearly we wanted to maximise time at Deramakot for the leopard so it was a sacrifice we were prepared to make. Our main target was Flat-headed Cat, but of course we expected to see a range of birds and primates as well.  I also hoped we might see elephants out in the daytime, but unfortunately we were told that there were no herds in the local area. 

 

We got to Sukau Greenview lodge around 12:00-13:00 in the afternoon.  The lodge itself had a nice lounge area overlooking the river, but the location of the lodge doesn’t exactly inspire, there didn’t seem to be any nature trails or anything like that where one could go for a walk, although perhaps I just didn’t explore far enough, but I think of the three lodges I have stayed at this was probably the most comfortable, but least interesting of the lot in terms of wildlife (the other lodges being Kinabatangan Jungle Camp and Osman Homestay). But we also only had a couple of hours to kill before our boat ride and so were content to just relax for a while and watch the goings on at the riverfront. The lodge also has a lot of cats,  I like cats, so that wasn’t a problem for me, but it is something to be aware of. 

 

48920152122_b71be5784e_z.jpgIMG_20191003_132227 Pussy cat by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

While we waited, we spotted a very pretty little flying lizard so most of us spent quite a lot of time chasing it around and around a tree-trunk. 

 

49051238161_ef49dbc5a6_z.jpgPA030160 (2) (Draco Cornutus) Horned Flying Lizard by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

As normally happens in Borneo, the clouds were starting to build over the course of the afternoon and, for a while, it looked like it was going to rain. Thankfully it didn’t hit us and just remained rather overcast as we boarded our boat at 1530. 

 

Proboscis Monkeys were much in evidence and we got a look at a nice big male, as well as some family groups. We also encountered some very nice groups of Pig-tailed Macaques- who always seem to have such expressive little faces and more Long-tailed Macaques. Maroon and Silvery Langurs (AKA Red and Silver leaf monkeys) were fewer and further between. One primate however remained elusive, the much sought-after orangutan. All we got a view of was a fresh nest. We also saw Island Flying Fox. several species of hornbills flew over, but rarely settled where we could photograph them, including pied, wreathed and wrinkled, and Blue-eared Kingfisher allowed a few photos. 

 

49050730233_45b811b5ed_z.jpgPA030536 adj2 proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49050729778_e31bb51420_z.jpgPA030622 (2) proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49051236356_c3444cc839_z.jpgPA030854 (2)  blue-eared kingfisher (Alcedo meninting) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49050728998_1bef975c30_b.jpgPA030901 (3) southern pig-tailed macaque (Macaca nemestrina) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49050728538_045b902d66_b.jpgPA030920 (3) southern pig-tailed macaque (Macaca nemestrina) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49050727718_b68493d1fc_b.jpgPA030978 (2) southern pig-tailed macaque (Macaca nemestrina) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49051447742_700a5f525f_b.jpgPA030993 (2) southern pig-tailed macaque (Macaca nemestrina) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49050727088_22b84a5b1f_b.jpgPA031000 (3) southern pig-tailed macaque (Macaca nemestrina) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49050726753_ec43ba72bc_b.jpgPA031034 (2) southern pig-tailed macaque (Macaca nemestrina) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49051233166_54106ac6e2_b.jpgPA031048 (2) southern pig-tailed macaque (Macaca nemestrina) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49051232801_9d0fcd536d_b.jpgPA031052 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49051445782_dfd9d7d351_b.jpgPA031157 southern pig-tailed macaque (Macaca nemestrina) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49051232251_fae8037f72_b.jpgPA031166 (2) proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49051445267_0ce6e51ea2_z.jpgPA031178 (2) proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49050724873_b1ff45cf89_b.jpgPA031205 (2) crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis), AKA long-tailed macaque by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49050724438_d10b3d99dd_b.jpgPA031213 crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis), AKA long-tailed macaque by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

48920154832_a22faa6395_b.jpgIMG_20191003_175249 Sunset, Kinabatangan by Jo Dale, on Flickr


 

We then went back for dinner, before heading out again for a less than stellar night safari. I’ll let Tomer describe this part:

 

“ We only spent 1 night on the Kinabatangan river, in hopes of finding a flat-headed cat. One shot, one kill... 

 

...We got news, before we left for the trip, that Royle’s (Royle Safaris) trip just saw a cat beautifully the week before, and seeing how the river levels were still great, we had our hopes up. Also, supposedly our moon schedule, tide schedule, and all the things that Mike swears don’t matter - lined up perfectly for us to see great stuff... 

 

...After dinner we went out on a night boat ride. We decided I would use the thermal scope carefully, since we knew the trees were going to be exploded with sleeping monkeys. And they were! I would just look through my scope, but not say anything unless I saw something I suspected was exceptionally interesting. During the night trip we saw our first Island palm civet, another slow loris, a few salt-water crocodiles, Malay civets and probably a leopard cat. Throughout the evening, I called the guides to stop the boat for mammals I saw on the shore, but the first few were rats: really big ones, and smaller ones. We didn’t stop to ID them for the lack of time. One looked exceptionally white, so both Jason and I asked almost simultaneously “Was this a moon rat?” But Mike assured us “No, it was just a regular rat”. 

 

After that, and knowing we only have 4 hours and 1 night to try to find a flat-headed cat, I promised I would try to identify my own scoped mammals with a torch rather than having the entire boat stop for riverside rats. I did keep looking through the scope, and saw several mammals, one of which looked to me like a medium-sized mammal (skunk-sized) and I thought it looked like a badger through the scope. But by the time I contemplated whether to have Mike stop the boat, we were already too far past it, so I let it go despite thinking it could be interesting. It also didn’t have a pronounced tail, at least not in the scope. The river levels were perfect, and it was dry and warm out – perfect conditions for a flat-headed cat. We had several eye-shines, at least one of which our relatively inexperienced boat driver splashed off with a big wave (and then our local guide yelled at him in Malaysian). Mike bet 50% it was a Malay Civet”

 

Just to interject here, this was a really frustrating sighting. I had just got onto this animal with my binoculars, and although I appreciate that the night can play tricks of people’s vision, I swear that what I saw was a little cat, sitting huddled up with its feet tucked under it, like cats do. I also didn’t think in the brief time I had it in view that it looked like a leopard cat as it wasn't spotted. So I’m pretty convinced that what I saw must have been the flat-headed cat, however, just at that moment the boat shifted and the guide who was in front of me blocked my view before I could really register any more that first impressions of the animal.  That was the point in this whole fiasco of a sighting when the boatman created the wake that smashed into the bank, right where the animal had been sitting. Well of course it wasn’t there when the wake died down so we’ll never know what that was for sure. 


Back to Tomer:

“Though I did feel like our relatively inexperienced boat driver may have affected our chances of actually getting a decent view of such an easily-disturbed species, he was nowhere near what I had experienced back in Way Kambas in 2015, so I can’t complain. Mike did jump after one animal and tried to circle around it, herding it back toward the river edge, but it didn’t cooperate. After our coffee break, Mike is pretty sure he saw a flat-headed cat, specifically. But it will just stay as that. Of course you don’t go looking for such a specialized and rare cat for just 1 night and actually expect to see it (or get disappointed if you don’t). But we had knowingly decided to put most of our bets elsewhere, sacrificing extra time at Kinabatang. With that said, it’s still a shame that we had such a perfect flat-headed cat conditions, and didn’t see one. At least not confirmed”. 

 

Since we put most of our effort into locating the cat, we didn’t really see a lot else of note, certainly nothing as good as the last time on the river when we had amazing views of both Slow Loris and Tarsier thanks to the keen eyes of Osman and his team.  

 

49051230786_53b20a5dbc_b.jpgPA031344 (2) silvery lutung (Trachypithecus cristatus), AKA silvered leaf monkey or the silvery langur by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49050723788_f243bf867a_b.jpgPA031375 (2) saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49051443487_cd2e9b64db_b.jpgPA031379 (2) saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

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Nice cat! My kind of lodge. Such a shame about the flat-headed cat, however.

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janzin

Well at least you saw some cats :P 

 

Enjoying the report, but it seems Borneo is really heavy on monkeys...my least favorite animal! Which makes me think maybe it isn't a place I'm dying to go.

 

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kittykat23uk

Well it also has lots of nice birds, civets and some other cool beasts too.. 

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shazdwn

Loving your report so far @kittykat23uk, although it keeps reminding me that I still owe Safaritalk one from my trip last March (2019 was a busy year). This has me a little inspired though (spoiler alert - no cats were spotted, not even a leopard cat but still a great trip).

 

I really hope you got your clouded leopard this time around...

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kittykat23uk

Thank you @shazdwn , looking forward to your report!

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kittykat23uk

Kinabatang River 04/10/2019

 

In the morning we went out at 6 am for a boat ride, It was initially quite hazy from some fires. But as the sun came up we were treated to a nice bright morning. This made a nice change for photography. 

 

48919957411_cf52b95088_b.jpgIMG_20191004_062952  Dawn on the Kinbatangan by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

We stopped by the orangutan nest early on, but sadly we never saw the occupant, although we heard later that another group on the river had a nice sighting. The Pig-tailed Macaques (sorry @janzin ) and  some of the hornbills were more accommodating, in particular we enjoyed good views of Black, Oriental Pied and a family of the gregarious Bushy Crested Hornbills. We also saw a good range of other birds including Black and Red Broadbills- but not well enough to photograph this time (check out my previous reports for some nice images of this stunning bird), a very distant Brown Barbet, better views of Dollarbird, Greater Coucal,  Blue-throated Bee-eater, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Anhinga, Purple Heron and distant Lesser Adjutants

 

49051415346_72532b6834_b.jpgPA040206 (2) (2) (2) southern pig-tailed macaque (Macaca nemestrina) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49051627157_09755db311_b.jpgPA040237 (2) southern pig-tailed macaque (Macaca nemestrina) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49050905508_2bc03b189a_z.jpgPA040287 (2) Oriental darter or Indian darter (Anhinga melanogaster) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49051628497_50193bc1ce_b.jpgPA040112 oriental pied hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49050905413_f433ba18d7_b.jpgPA040505 (2)  bushy-crested hornbill (Anorrhinus galeritus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49051413836_ab4777d019_b.jpgPA040513  bushy-crested hornbill (Anorrhinus galeritus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49051413586_782dec178e_b.jpgPA040574 (2) Pacific swallow (Hirundo tahitica) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49051625917_80bc12aa74_b.jpgPA040658 blue-throated bee-eater (Merops viridis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49051623162_00e99a8c03_z.jpgPA041130 (2)  black hornbill (Anthracoceros malayanus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr49050904243_2dd1f08fab_b.jpgPA040738  Oriental dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49051412291_fb64be7194_b.jpgPA040795 greater coucal or crow pheasant (Centropus sinensis) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49051410776_677ac78e81_b.jpgPA041020 grey-headed fish eagle (Haliaeetus ichthyaetus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

 

We also found a group of Proboscis Monkeys (sorry @janzin) in better light, but sadly mostly females/young males, no big-nosed males were in a good position for photographs. 

 

49050903243_9283015cd9_b.jpgPA040825 (2) proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49050902958_99b46c94f4_b.jpgPA040843 proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49050900998_79ec8bdffb_b.jpgPA041172 (2) proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49050900678_f8fa2cc98e_b.jpgPA041214 (2) proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49050899793_f3884c3640_b.jpgPA041279 proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49051408251_f7d27585e0_z.jpgPA041319 (2) (2)  purple heron (Ardea purpurea) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49051408076_7f54d24df2_b.jpgPA041391 (2) lesser adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

After breakfast we headed out toward Telupid, where we arrived for lunch, and then headed in through the oil palm plantation to Deramakot.

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janzin

haha okay, I admit I scroll quickly past the monkeys. There's something about monkeys that gets under my skin---like clowns :lol: But love the birds!

 

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Treepol

Wonderful variety of hornbill species on the river trip!

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kittykat23uk

Thanks @Treepol and @janzin

Edited by kittykat23uk
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kittykat23uk

Deramakot 4/10/2019

 

AAB’s operation has changed a bit since I last visited Deramakot in 2017. In 2017, it was a bit more freeform with Mike and Lang. Basically we would tend to be with Mike off and on during the day as well as going out on long drives at night, similar to the way it had worked at Danum Valley this trip, although those night drives were a little shorter than the ones we did at Deramakot. I think we had more disruption due to rain the last time, and the roads were a lot worse than they are now. We also had a more comfortable vehicle this time around, for example we could all sit down at the same time, which was a big bonus compared to the last trip.

 

It seems for Deramakot they now have this policy of “standard” or “extended” night drive packages. The standard package covers seven hours of drives per day, or in other words per 24 hour period. It seems there was a bit of a mix up and this ended up being what we booked, when we should have gone for the extended package. With the limitations of the standard package that meant that if we wanted to focus our efforts entirely on looking for the leopard, we’d have to use the vast majority of those hours at night, bearing in mind we were out usually from late afternoon or early evening until at least 2.30 am and usually 3 am most nights.

 

I was sort of expecting that the early mornings would be free time, as had been the case on the last trip and that this would be a time where people would want to spend either asleep or doing local hikes on their own (I tended to go out birding at these times) but to have very little flexibility in terms of the drives wasn’t what any of us were expecting. Jason in particular was very vocal about his desire to get a second vehicle to allow us to do further drives for clouded leopard in the mornings. He was so keen to do this that he was fully prepared to go it alone if none of the others wanted to join him. Mike cautioned against doing this, citing that the sheer amount of logging traffic meant that drives in the mornings were not productive. However I did note that most of the other groups were also out and about during the day, as well as at night- so it seems that their packages were a bit more flexible than ours.

 

At the end of the day, there was no way that I was going to miss out on the prospect of someone in the group getting lucky with a leopard sighting early morning (there is a remote chance but it’s not unknown for them to be out at that time of day) and neither was Jens or Tomer. Wendy and Phil also agreed in principle to add the second vehicle and driver. 

 

So that meant that in addition to doing the night drives until 3 am most nights, we also had dawn drives from 05.30 to around 10:00 or 11:00  every day! Mike gave us the choice, did we want him to be completely fresh every night for the leopard search or did we want him with us during the day? Well, I wasn’t overly enamoured with not having a guide during the daytime (we just had a driver for the mornings) and Mike is really good with not just mammals but birds and herps too, so I knew we'd be missing out with this arrangement. But we were on a rare mammal quest, not a general wildlife trip and so as a whole the group felt we would be good enough at spotting mammals in the daytime, so everyone agreed this should be the way forward. 

 

Well of course now we felt certain that we were definitely maximising our chances of finding this leopard,  but I wasn’t sure when we were actually going to get any sleep! Never mind, it’s only for ten nights, as the Bon Jovi song, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” goes, 

 

“This ain't no slumber party

Got no time for catching z's

If they say that that ain't healthy

Well then living's a disease”. 

   

Well, even with the additional driver and vehicle we still ended up going over the allotted time for the night drives at times and had to pay a little extra on top of the extra vehicle and driver costs. We really were going all out for this leopard!

 

Reading so many good trip reports on Mammalwatching.com, it's very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that clouded leopard is easy to see in Borneo and certainly a lot of people I know have seen them either here or at Danum. It is easy if you see it, it isn't if you don't!  It's not like tigers where word gets around about a sighting everyone converges on it, except in those very rare situations where a leopard is in clear view on the kinabatangan, which I believe did happen whilst we were in Borneo, but a few days after we left (typical!).

 

Having tried once before I was very much aware of this and approached the tour with a healthy dose of realism about our chances.  What has further complicated matters is that Deramakot has now got this reputation for Clouded Leopard, so everyone comes here to do night drives and you now have maybe four or five, sometimes six groups out driving the same road (it only goes in two main directions with a few small side routes) and people try and stagger their departures so as to give plenty of time for the animals to emerge after a vehicle goes by. So of those half dozen vehicles, maybe one group will be in the right place at the right time and get that lucky sighting on any given night. In the past year, even with so many vehicles, this is averaging around only two sightings a month. Everyone wants to do the direction towards the river as this is considered the best stretch for leopard, but to be fair to all guests one has to go in the other direction some nights. 

 

When we arrived we got the news that a leopard had been seen by one group the previous night. We were in equal measures buoyed and disheartened by this news, we didn’t know if it was a good omen that one was still in the area or whether that meant we had missed our only chance to see it. The same thing had happened to Jens and I the last time around and we obviously didn't see our leopard that trip. Some people will say that a leopard follows a pattern of patrolling it’s territory and therefore you just need to put in a good stretch of nights and you will increase your odds of seeing it. This doesn’t seem to be the case, there is no real pattern to the sightings from what Mike can tell and there is no “best season” for them either. It really is all down to luck. 

 

Of course the more nights you have in Deramakot, then the more likely you are to see a range of good species, there’s a lot more to see than The Big One.

 

Our first afternoon was rained out until after dinner and frustratingly we didn’t get out until about 2000. We first saw a Bornean Wood Owl. Over the course of the night we saw quite a few of the common species such as Black Flying Squirrel, Greater Mouse Deer, Island Palm Civet. Tomer’s scope revealed the first of many colugos that we would come to see over the course of the 10 nights, but it was a bit distant for photos. We also had a brief sighting of a Banded Palm Civet.   

 

 

49320772326_2746ff411e_b.jpgPA040005 Bornean Wood Owl by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49056083777_7755973c17_b.jpgPA040014 (2) (2)  greater mouse-deer, greater Malay chevrotain, or napu (Tragulus napu) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49055867166_f25fddba9a_b.jpgPA040040 black flying squirrel or large black flying squirrel (Aeromys tephromelas) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

49055354633_18cf2624b4_b.jpgPA040064 Island Palm Civet (Asian palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus)) by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

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michael-ibk

Really enjoying this report, so many fascinating animals to see. Of course there are the obvious cool ones like the Proboscis Monkeys I´d love to see at some point, but for some reason I am particularly intrigued with all the weird critters you saw. Really admire your dedication - you so deserve that Clouded Leopard!

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